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January 13, 2017

Fasten Your Seatbelts…

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about politics, so I have to start today’s post with some backstory. Sit back and relax. This one’s been brewing for about a year. I’m gonna be wordy here.

The first time I came back to America to live it was 2007, and the country was gearing up for the 2008 election. I blogged quite a bit back then about that race. I was a Kucinich supporter, saw him speak on the campaign trail, spoke to the man myself and really believed in him. Didn’t think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the party nomination, but I’m a self-avowed idealist. The good thing about the primary elections in America is that we don’t have to vote strategically.

How the press marginalized that candidate showed me a lot about how things worked. When he finally quit the race, I moved on, reluctantly, to support Obama. His inexperience and relative youth (I’m 6 months older and knew I was too young to run America), were the major problems I had with him as a candidate. But I am much more left than right, as impossible as these labels are, so most times I’m gonna vote Blue on the national level.

I blogged those first four years, but by the time of the 2012 election, I was jaded. I don’t always agree with President Obama’s policies and choices, which is to be expected, and frankly, it is politics as usual in Washington. Gotta play the game. He did it well, but faced incredible racism and obstructionism. Anyone who says race wasn’t an issue must live in white bubble of ignorance about race and privilege. That’s not meant to be an insult. I geographically live in one now. There are so few people of color here that race issues aren’t “real” for most folks. Coming, as I do, from a large, multicultural city, I have a different perspective.

I’ve taught in poor New York City community colleges for many years. I’ve seen systematic, entrenched racism up close and personal, thanks. Those students are mine. I love them and want the best for them. The obstacles that are built in to block their success are things I take personally as well see as insults toward what I think my great country stands for. So to see it at the highest levels, while unsurprising, was enervating in a way.

I left the country again during Obama’s second term, and was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to be here for the 2016 election. I really didn’t see anyone I wanted to support, and being half a world away makes it a lot easier to avoid American politics. Unfortunately, I had to come back to the US to live. I love my country, but love being an ex-pat. And I was here for the worst political campaign in my memory.

Trillions of pixels have been spent talking about the divide in our country this past election exposed. My candidate didn’t win the nomination, but I switched over to HRC for expediency’s sake. She wasn’t who I wanted. Sorry, fellow feminists, but I don’t support women because they are women. HRC has done a lot for women, and she’ll go down in history, which I hope will be kinder to her than America has been, but she’s politically coming from a different place than I am.

But the prevailing Republican candidate made me wonder what had happened to my country. This was worse than 1980 when Reagan got the nomination. People joked that a bad actor had gotten the nomination, but at least the man had political experience—he’d been governor of one of our largest and richest states, one with a diverse population and warring needs. He had some experience, and while not a genius, he was no idiot. He had principles and morals and loved America with a strong patriotism. No one ever thought otherwise.

But this one? Our new POETUS? As a New Yorker, I’d been subjected to tabloid headlines about this man’s self-centeredness for the past 30 years. He’s shown himself to be sexist, racist and morally corrupt for decades.

He’s a master showman and an expert in smoke and mirrors, I’ll give him that. As good at creating a national fantasy as he was in creating the worlds designed in his casinos, places purposely constructed to keep reality at bay and fleece the suckers. No one ever beats the House. That’s a maxim as old as gambling dens themselves. He sells a dream and gives enough of a taste to build a need.

His promises to America will be as hollow as his promises to Atlantic City. He will suck out the life, destroy the middle class, make the poor poorer and increase crime. Don’t believe me? Look at Atlantic City today. Ask people from there. The casinos promised prosperity. They created it, too, and it was sucked out by the owners who lived anywhere but Atlantic City. Organized crime moved in with its drugs and its prostitution, its corruption. But today, organized crime is the least of America’s worries.

This is a man who has never shown the smallest amount of compassion for his fellow humans, who calls heroes stupid, and glorifies the worst traits of this nation: ignorance, self-glorification, anti-intellectualism, false piety and self-aggrandization.

I don’t actually hate him, though. I pity him. Because while he’s a master showman, he doesn’t run this circus. I truly believe he’s the tool of masterminds, people much better at the game of manipulation than he is. He’s so out of his depth, he even looks lost. He’s not the first US president to have “handlers,” or even a power behind the throne. But I do believe he’s the first to be handled by a foreign power. He’s a puppet. A bold, brash, self-serving puppet, but a puppet in the hands of people so much smarter, so much more in control of themselves and their actions, that our country is in the worst danger it’s been in years.

Rumors about sexual peccadillos and pettiness? Smoke and mirrors. Thirty years of poor education has created an American voting populace with no critical thinking skills. If you’ve read my writing, you know I’ve been singing this song for the past 10 years. A large percentage of American college graduates cannot tell the difference between a fact and an opinion. And they are the “educated” ones. Many Americans don’t know how to find reliable information on the internet. 

Another problem is that our press is no longer free. It’s in the hands of too few controllers.  On top of that problem, reporters too often see themselves as the shapers of news narratives instead of the people tasked with reporting it. The job title kind of says it all.  In Journalism 101, I learned rule one of writing a news story: get verification. Have none of today’s reporters even watched All the President’s Men much less read it? Woodstein went to great lengths to verify, verify, verify. Ben Bradlee, where are you when we need you?

The salacious bits become the focus, comedians mock the politicians (which is part of their job) then the reporters pick up the jokes as news. It’s an endless cycle that leaves many Americans morally outraged or entertained depending on their worldview yet unaware of what’s really happening. The American press has been a weapon of mass distraction for going on two decades now.

Sadly, over three years ago, I wrote about how the American people had to rise up and take control again.  And someone else sensed this need, this anger, this frustration, and tapped into it. An “outsider” who was relatively new to politics, though he had run for president before. A showman, quite literally, who is an expert at “give the people what they want.” But this time, unlike his 2000 run, he had expert backing. Millions and millions of angry, frightened people flocked to his campaign.

Folks who decried the “softening” of America enjoyed his taunts, his violence, his hate, his pettiness. Here was a tough man who put women in their place, knew that “retarded” was an all-purpose taunt, and didn’t take shit from no one. And he was a TV star! He made them laugh and always gave a good show. He didn’t rely on boring facts to make a point. He echoed their desires with his pithy soundbites.

He probably wouldn’t have won if it weren’t for some help from people who needed a puppet in the White House. This man’s narcissism played into their hands perfectly. There were plenty of other, more qualified Republican candidates—one of them surely should have gotten the nod. Ted Cruz was more experienced. And he also had the “angry outsider” schtick down pat.  Marco Rubio was more photogenic and appealed to many of my students. Why not them? Was it just the will of the American people? How long has outside influence been at work? Frankly, I didn’t think the poor Republicans had much of a choice going in, but their ultimate choice surprised many.

So now, instead of healing, the crack is getting wider.  Over 65 million Americans out of 200 million registered voters are terrified about what will happen next week. Another 63 million are mostly jubilant (though like Brexit voters last year, there’s a lot of buyer’s remorse being reported). And 80 million registered voters didn’t bother to vote, so who knows what’s up with them.

We’re in for a bumpy ride. I do believe there are ethics violations already in place. The word treason is also not too strong for me. Others, with more powerful voices, agree with me. We wonder what will be done.

Unfortunately, I’m a scholar, far too familiar with history not to have some uncomfortable moments. Things I see happening in my nation’s capital have me deeply concerned and writing my representatives. As I live in a Red State, I know this is like spitting into the wind, but like I said, I’m an idealist.

I will be blogging in the future. Change is coming. Real change. Often terrible change. I tell my students I want them to use their voices. I have one to use, and I will.


January 7, 2008

Shame on you ABC! Let Americans hear for themselves

Filed under: Democratic primaries,Kucinich,media,New Broads,politics,protest — by maggiec @ 7:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As I mentioned yesterday, ABC-News barred Dennis Kucinich from the televised debates Saturday night.  They also barred Democrat Mike Gravel and Republican Duncan Hunter.  Friday afternoon, Kucinich filed a complaint with the FCC, arguing “that ABC is violating equal-time provisions by keeping him out of the debate and noted that ABC’s parent Walt Disney Co. had contributed to campaigns involving the four Democrats who were invited.”

I wanted to know why, so I checked out ABC-News’s coverage of the filing.  This is from them:

“The network set rules to narrow the field. Candidates had to meet at least one of three criteria: place first through fourth in Iowa, poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major New Hampshire surveys, or poll 5 percent or higher in one of the last four major national surveys.

“Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd took some of the pressure off ABC by quitting the race Thursday night.

“‘In previous debates where the stage was more crowded you had to make sure all of the candidates got fair time,’ said David Chalian, ABC News political director. ‘Here you will have more time to go in depth on the issues.'”

OK, that was interesting, but under those guidelines, Kucinich should have been allowed in the debate.  He wasn’t in the top four, but he has consistently polled well in both New Hampshire and nationally.  But the news is being manipulated to reduce Americans’ choice.

I have mentioned before how Americans are drowning in choice–too many cereals, laundry detergents, fast food places, TV channels.  But when it comes to electing someone to one of the most powerful positions in the world, we are given the choice of vanilla, french vanilla, lite vanilla and vanilla with strawberry swirl.  (This is a pure food analogy–it has NOTHING to do with race.  I’m using vanilla in the sense of bland.)  Most of the candidates are telling us they are another flavor, but the candidates with the strongest flavorings are marginalized by the media.

I am seriously concerned about the United States.  It is a government “of the people, by the people, for the people.”  But if the people are barred access to information, what happens to our democracy?

Write to ABC and complain.  Write to your local news channels and newspapers.  Get your voices heard!  And turn to alternate sources of information.  The internet is the biggest revolution in communications since television.  Let’s use the power of the internet to get the word out, not just about Kucinich, but about the mainstream media’s manipulation of the presidential elections.

“They” say Kucinich isn’t electable, so why waste time on him?  Why isn’t he electable?  Because he’s twice divorced?  So am I.  For better or worse, the view of divorce is changing.  Who cares if the guy couldn’t stay married?  I’m not proud of my marital track record, but it doesn’t define who I am or make me a lesser person.

Is it his politics?  According to his campaign literature, he wants to bring the troops home, provide health care, control the cost of oil, overturn the Patriot Act, protect the middle class, cancel NAFTA and the WTO.  This isn’t sounding too radical to me.  Sounds like what a Democrat should be saying.

“The only thing that makes Dennis Kucinich unelectable is an electorate that doesn’t believe in itself, doesn’t believe in the power of democracy, and doesn’t believe in the power of the individual vote. Well, I do believe in democracy, and I do believe in the power of the vote. And I do believe in the people of America. And I really do think this is a call to courage, to really stand up for yourself. ” ~Elizabeth Kucinich

I told you she was good.  kucinich.jpeg

Kucinich for President? Yeah, I think so.

If you haven’t noticed this about me, I love my country. As the Massachusetts primaries approach on Feb. 5th, I still hadn’t decided which candidate I was behind. I kept waiting for Al Gore to announce, but he never did, so I was stuck. I have reservations about Hillary Clinton. I have reservations about Barack Obama, similar reservations about their health care plans, actually. I didn’t know enough about John Edwards, and then who else was there? I was a little interested in a Republican’s advertisements, Ron Paul, but I decided it was time to get educated.

Dennis Kucinich, the peace candidate, the guy who says he wants to defend the Constitution, caught my eye. Well, they all say that, but that’s what catches my attention these days. The Constitution is more than “a goddamned piece of paper” as our President has called it. I’d like to see it supported for a change.

So I went to the Kucinich web site and liked what I read. Then I joined the mailing list. Got an e-mail this morning saying there would be a rally today in Concord, NH, right before the primaries. Oh, yeah, Viggo Mortensen would be there. I asked my husband if he was interested, and he said he’d like to see an American political rally. Mortensen got my son’s vote, but then he’s only 17, so it’s the only vote he’s getting.Enlisted to hold a sign

The last American political rally I went to was in 1968. I was seven, and my grandmother brought me to see Robert F. Kennedy campaigning in Brewster, NY. He was late; I was brought home and never saw one of my great political heroes. A few months later, he was gone.

So I listened to Kucinich, and I liked what I heard. He was saying the same thing about health care that I was thinking. Making health insurance mandatory doesn’t help the poor. Then it’s a decision between food and medical care. Massachusetts has mandatory health care, and I think it’s wrong. There should be some kind of subsidized health care if you’re going to have that kind of mandate, or else you’re just doing a favor for the big insurance companies.

I was impressed with him, and even more impressed with his wife, Elizabeth Kucinich. All I knew about her from the media was she had a pierced tongue. You know, the important stuff. She also has a BA in Religious Studies and Theology and an MA in International Conflict Resolution. When she was 18 she went off to India to work at one of Mother Theresa’s shelters for the poorest of the poor, and she’s done volunteer work as a refugee caseworker for the British Red Cross. She’s worked for the poor and disenfranchised all of her adult life. And she’s still only 30.

After the short speeches, I wanted to shake hands with the candidate. I wanted to feel his vibe myself. That might sound a little flaky, but as a reporter, when talking to politicians I learned to trust the vibe thing. First I had a few words with Elizabeth Kucinich. She’s poised, confident, with a keen intelligence shining in her eyes. She’s also devastatingly beautiful. She graciously posed for a picture with me.Elizabeth Kucinich and me

I worked my way to the candidate himself. By this point, I was very intrigued. Unfortunately, this was a busy weekend, and it looked like I wasn’t going to get the chance. A man came up behind me to get an autograph and I was about to walk away when Congressman Kucinich put his hand on my arm and stayed me.

When he was done signing, he turned to me, and I told him, “I’ve found the man I’m going to vote for.”

He thanked me and smiled, then I told him that I haven’t been to a political rally since RFK. I wasn’t just making idle chit chat. As I’ve said, RFK is one of my heroes. Sure, he was flawed; he was human. But he gave people hope. I want to feel that hope again.

I felt it when Clinton was elected. I was ready for change, welcomed it, and felt good about my country’s future again. But he left me and the rest of the country terribly disillusioned for many, many reasons.

Being an eternal optimist, I want to feel it again. I want my country to be as great as I know it can be. I told the Congressman about RFK because I wanted to let him know what I was investing in this.

He looked at me and said. “That is so moving.” He paused, still looking right in my eyes. Then he said, “I’m so touched. Can I hug you?”

So I hugged him. And he told me a story that I won’t share here. Not political, about someone he knew. Then he said he’d sign an autograph for me and asked me to spread the word.hugging

So here I am. I am a good judge of people. I’m a trained listener and as a college professor and writer, I get lied to on a regular basis. I have that gift Hemingway said writers need: a built-in, fool-proof shit detector. I wasn’t hearing shit today.

Dennis Kucinich is a dedicated true believer, and he will get my vote in the primary. He would make a good president. He has ideas to help this country be what it can be. His wife has the potential to be the best First Lady we’ve had since Eleanor Roosevelt. They are the real deal.

I’ve already written to ABC news to complain that he was cut from the televised debates. More on that tomorrow. My husband and I watched the news tonight, the only channel that sent a reporter, and Kucinich wasn’t on the air. Even with a sound bite from Viggo Mortensen! The media is muzzling the elections and making it hard for Americans to make an informed choice. The news covered five candidates: Clinton, Obama and Edwards, McCain and Romney. They showed the three Democrats on their poll, but five Republicans. As I say, more on that tomorrow.

But check out Kucinich. Don’t let the big media companies give you tunnel vision. If you like what he says, great! If you don’t, that’s great, too, because at least you made an informed decision. But in a recent independent poll, Kucinich got 77% of the vote–a far cry from what the corporate media would have you believe.

Oh, and Viggo Mortensen was a treat, too. Erudite, passionate, intelligent. Soft-spoken, but angry as all get out at ABC, and I liked to see that.

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